Setting Up A Reading Nook - 5 inspiring ideas

reading quoteChildren need to be encouraged to develop a love of reading and what better way than setting up a cosy area in your home or classroom as a reading nook.

In this last blog of the “reading series” we share 5 inspiring ideas that will have children wanting to curl up with a book in no time. All these ideas are simple, inexpensive and easy to recreate in the home or classroom.

If you have missed the first two blogs of the “reading series” please click on the links below to catch up on what you have missed.

Reading Strategies to teach children 4- 9 year olds

Concepts about Print – 22 concepts that all parents and teachers need to know

Use a tent

tentA tent inspires children to be transported into an imaginary world that is separate from their daily routine. You can decorate it how you wish and it is easy to set up in any space. There are many tents for sale in shops at the moment or some creative people might find a pattern online and create their own. Fill the tent with cushions and blankets and have the children’s reading books close by.

 




Using book shelves

book shelvesUsing book display shelves is a great way of storing even the largest of book collections. It is easy for a child to see which book they want and an effective way of keeping all the books in a neat way on the wall. Rotate the books continually so children have new books to select from. Book display shelves are inexpensive and can be bought from many shops including IKEA. This would work really well in a child’s bedroom, a play room or on a wall inside the classroom.




Create a space within a space

own spaceChildren love to feel like they have found a secret room so why not create one at home or in the classroom. A secret room can be made with curtains, bunting or any other material lying around. Display books in the secret space with comfortable seating that children really want to sit in. Involve the child in putting the room together and have books on a rotating system.

 




Reading bench

readingbenchUsing an old bookshelf, turn it on the side and buy some foam to go on top of it. Buy some material to go over the foam and put some cushions on it. You may also have an old mattress (like a cot mattress) that you could use instead. If you prefer the reading bench to be off the floor screw in some legs at the bottom of the shelf. Put the collection of books on the shelves underneath. If you attach wheels to the bottom it will become a movable reading bench.

 

Choose a theme

themed areaUse your child’s interest to create a unique spot for them to read. There are so many free printable templates online that you can use to create a great reading nook with any theme. This would also work well in a classroom as it can relate to the theme that the class is studying. You can incorporate reading tubs or reading shelves nearby to hold the book collection.

 

This concludes our reading series blogs. Hopefully you have been inspired to create your own reading nook in your home or classroom. We will be starting a new Mathematics series of blogs soon so stay tuned.

If you would like to read some more blogs from this author please click on the links below.

20 ways to help your child learn their sight words

Literacy in the Primary classroom: Lower Case Letter formation

20 ways to help your child learn their sounds

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Ensuring A Successful Transition Into Kindergarten - 11 Aspects To Consider To Ensure Your Child Is Ready

Welcome to my first blog since school holidays. I am well rested and ready to start my weekly blog again. This blog focuses on the issue of when to send children to school and how you know if your child is ready for Kindergarten.

imgres-2Starting school can be a very stressful time for parents. There are so many unknowns, so many questions and so many decisions to make. Now is the time that parents are deciding whether to send their child on their formal educational journey or to hold them back another year.

We all want our children to have a successful transition into school. Below is a list of 11 aspects that parents need to consider to ensure that their child is going to have a successful transition.

  1. Independence

imgres-3Children who have a successful transition into Kindergarten are very independent. They are able to commence tasks on their own and are able to complete all self care tasks independently. These tasks can include taking a jumper on or off, opening their own lunch box and unpacking and packing their own school bag.

Parent ideas to develop this in your child

  • Child needs to dress and undress themselves everyday
  • Child needs to pack and unpack their preschool/daycare bag everyday
  • Child can make their own lunch and morning tea
  • Child could help younger siblings complete tasks
  • Child needs to do up and undo their own seatbelt
  • Child could help set up craft activities eg pour paint into containers




  1. Organisation

organise clothingMany children who struggle in the first few terms of Kindergarten lack organisational skills. They usually forget where they put things, cannot complete a task in the correct order and they do not get all the required resources to complete the task. Children need to have many opportunities prior to school to gain a sense of responsibility for their things and practice setting themselves up to complete a set task.

Parent ideas to develop this in your child

  • Child needs to get their own clothes out for the day
  • Child needs to put everything they need for the day in their bag
  • Child can clean up/pack up a game before starting a new one
  • Child could get all the equipment needed for a game and set it up
  1. Problem solver

Unknown-1Kindergarten is a new experience for a child and there will be many problems that the child will encounter. Children who have good problem solving skills will be able to cope with these challenges when they arise. Many children who find the transition period difficult will get quiet upset at the smallest difficulty and require an adult to solve their problem for them. Unfortunately there are usually only a couple of adults and a lot of children, so they may spend a lot of their time waiting for the teacher’s attention instead of being on task.

Parent ideas to develop this in your child

  • When your child experiences a difficulty do not tell them what to do but guide them in finding out a solution for themselves
  • Children need to build a lot of resilience so they need to be given many opportunities before school to do this.
  • Set up opportunities for your child to find solutions for themselves. Eg do not put a new toilet roll on, do not refill their drink, do not get the tomato sauce for their dinner etc




  1. Fine motor

using scissorsFine motor skills begin to develop before a baby can walk. By the age of 5 or 6, it is expected that most children have very developed fine motor skills. In the first few terms of kindergarten, most tasks require many fine motor skills such as drawing, writing, cutting and gluing. If a child has under developed fine motor skills they tend to have many incomplete tasks and get upset that they cannot do tasks that others in the class can do. If you have a concern about your child’s fine motor development ensure that you see an OT (occupational therapist) before starting kindergarten. They will be able to offer advice about specific tasks that your child should be doing to strengthen their small muscles in their hands.

Parent ideas to develop this in your child

  • Screwing and unscrewing lids
  • Doing up buttons and tying simple knots
  • Forming letters in their name
  • Drawing basic shapes E.G. square, rectangle, circle and triangle
  • Cutting on straight lines
  • Cutting around shapes
  1. Gross motor

imgresDeveloped gross motor skills are essential for good posture and muscle coordination. Children with poor gross motor skills find it difficult to keep up with their peers on the playground and tend to be more “clumsy” in the classroom. When a child turns 5 years old they should be able to complete the following:

  • Stands on one foot for at least 5 seconds
  • Able to hop on a foot at least 3 times
  • Jumps over an object with two feet
  • Runs around obstacles
  • Walks up and down stairs while holding something
  • Skips on alternate feet
  • Hangs from a bar for 5 seconds
  • Walk on a balance beam
  • Catches a small ball with hands only

If you have a concern about your child’s gross motor development ensure that you see a children’s physiotherapist before starting kindergarten. They will be able to offer advice about specific activities that your child should be doing to strengthen their large muscles and help their coordination and balance.




  1. Learning skills

children readingChildren need to be motivated learners in order to have a successful transition to kindergarten. They need to be able to listen while sitting still on the floor, spend at least 30 minutes concentrating on a task and have the ability to follow instructions.

  1. Speech and Language skills

doctorsChildren need to be able to have highly developed speech and language skills to be successful in the transition period to formal school. They need to be able to participate in a conversation, explain their ideas, answer questions appropriately, retell a story and understand what someone is saying. Many children start kindergarten with underdeveloped speech and language skills and this significantly affects their writing and reading. If you have a concern about your child’s speech and language development ensure that you see a children’s speech pathologist before starting kindergarten. Early intervention is the key. The sooner your child starts therapy the less their speech and language will affect their success in their classroom.

  1. Letter sounds

o soundEven though it is not essential, children who are familiar with the letter names and the corresponding sounds definitely have an advantage when they first start school. They will have a strong foundation to build their knowledge about writing and reading on which begins as soon as they start school.

Parent ideas to develop this in your child

  • Identifying the names and sounds of letters in their name (first and last name)
  • Identify the first sound of objects E.G.  “C is for cat”
  • Pointing out letters on signs, books you read and labels
  1. Numbers

jumponanswerChildren who can identify numbers 1 – 10, can count past 20 and count using one to one correspondence (pointing to a single object at a time) will have a solid foundation to begin formal learning about mathematics.

 

Parent ideas to develop this in your child

  • Count objects as often as you can
  • Identify numbers in the environment eg letter boxes, speed limit signs
  • Playing games with a dice




  1. Social development

CountingThis is an important element that contributes to a successful kindergarten transition. The child needs to be able to wait their turn, use manners, know when to talk and when to listen, cooperate with their peers and have empathy towards others. They will be going into an environment that has a high adult to child ratio and therefore their needs cannot be immediately met. They need to negotiate, compromise and be assertive when dealing with other children. The social development of a child is the main focus of all early childhood educators so if you have concerns about your child, speak to your child’s current teacher for some advice.

  1. Age

images-2This is a current educational debate that many parents find themselves involved in. Do you send your child to school if they turn 5 in January to July? I believe that this has the biggest impact on a child’s success in Kindergarten. Every child is different, however in most kindergarten classrooms today, there can be a difference of up to 18 months between children. Just think about a newborn compared to an 18month year old. The difference is substantial. My personal recommendation is if your child will be turning 5 in March or later you need to hold them back. They need to spend another year developing the above 10 aspects. It is harder to see the age difference of 18 months when they are 5 or 6 years old but as formal education begins it becomes very apparent, very quickly. However, there are the odd cases (mainly with girls) that are born later than March and show readiness. However, these are few and far between. I have never met a parent who has regretted holding their child back, but have met plenty who have regretted sending them.

We all want the best for our children. We want to set them up for success in life and the beginning of their educational journey is no different. Starting school is a big step and I hope these 11 areas have given you some insights to ensure the transition to formal school is a smooth and exciting one for your child.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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It’s report season! - 10 Facts That All Parents Must Know Before Reading Their Child’s Report

Welcome back to Creating A Learning Environment. I can not believe that it is nearly the end of Term 4. Where has this year gone? The end of a Semester, means a very busy time for teachers. This is the time where teachers use all their observations and assessments to provide a formal document about each child in their class, to reflect on what that child has learnt and developed over the two terms.

This blog will look into the world of “grading” for reports and give parents information about what they need to know before they even open their child’s report.

New South Wales Primary schools send student reports home twice a year. The first one being at the end of Semester 1 (End of Term 2) and the second one at the end of Semester 2 (End of Term 4). The report’s aim is to give parents information about their child and give the parent an understanding of whether their child is meeting benchmarks for their age.

Reports can cause a lot of mixed emotions for many households. It can be a time of celebration of a child’s achievement or a realisation that your child is struggling to meet the expected level of a particular grade. With all situations, reports need to be used as a conversation starter between you and your child and between you and your child’s teacher.

Below is a list of 10 facts that all parents need to know before they read their child’s report.

1. The Board Of Studies - What is a KLA?

BoS%20Logo[1]The Board of Studies is the governing body for the implementation of teaching and assessing of students in NSW. They are responsible for setting the core curriculum that is being taught in schools and regulates how much time is allocated to the teaching of each KLA (Key Learning Area). A Key Learning Area is a term used to name a particular area of study.  There are 6 KLA’s in Primary School. They are English, Mathematics, Human Society and Its Environment (History), Science, Creative Arts and Personal Development, Health and Physical Education. Some schools may have the addition of Religious Education as their seventh KLA. All these KLA’s need to be assessed by a child’s teacher and a child is given a grade for each of these KLA’s on their reports.

2. Time allocation for each KLA

KLAsSchools are restricted to how much time they can allocate to the teaching of each KLA. Teachers must assess each child for each KLA in the allocated time per week. In Primary school the time allocations are; English (25%-35%), Mathematics (20%), Science (6%-10%), HSIE (6%-10%), Creative Arts (6%-10%), PDHPE (6%-10%) and additional time for Religious Education, assemblies etc (up to 20%). As a general guide 6%-10% is usually 1.5 - 2.5hrs in a typical teaching week. Many infant classes use combined units to incorporate a few KLA’s in the one learning experience.

3. Stages in Primary Education

children readingThere are 4 stages in Primary Education. Early Stage 1 is Kindergarten, Stage 1 is Years 1-2, Stage 2 is Years 3-4 and Stage 3 is Years 5-6. There are many different types of schools within NSW. Some schools operate in year groups and some schools operate in stage groups. Some schools operate in single classrooms while others have open learning (a few classes work in their own space in a large room). All students are different and they thrive differently in different environments. All schools are bound by the same curriculum, time allocation for teaching each KLA and grading responsibilities, however, schools can chose the best way to deliver the teaching and learning experiences to their students.

4. Outcomes

teacher assessingEach KLA has outcomes that address a particular concept in the area of study that is related to what stage level the child is at. Teachers assess whether a child has not achieved, achieved or has gone beyond each outcome at the particular stage of each KLA. A teacher must look at the child’s achievement across all the outcomes in a KLA that have been taught and then communicate that to the parent and child in the form of a grade for that KLA. An example of a Kindergarten outcome in Mathematics is “Counts to 30, and orders, reads and represents numbers in the range 0 to 20”

5. Kindergarten grading

reading 1Kindergarten is the only grade in Primary school that does not have “Grades”. Teachers generally communicate a child’s achievement in relation to them achieving an outcome or working towards an outcome. This is their first year at “formal schooling” and being it is its own stage, grading does not commence until the children move into Stage 1.

6. What does a “C” mean?

Grade AThis is an area that causes the most stress to parents as the meanings of grades have changed a lot since they went to school. Most parents want their child to receive an “A” but many parents do not realise how difficult it really is to receive an “A”. A “C” is given to a student who is meeting all the requirements of that stage level. They are able to work efficiently in the classroom and achieve all benchmarks at that stage. Most students, as a result, will receive a “C”. Even though some parents are not happy with their child’s “C” for a KLA, it actually informs them that their child is doing exactly what they are meant to be doing.

7. How a teacher grades

assessmentsGrading is not an easy task. Many students can be on the border line of two grades. Two students could receive a “C” for a KLA but one could actually be a high C (nearly a B) and the other could be a low C (just higher than a D). Even though each grade could have such a big spectrum this is not written on the report. A teacher must use all the assessments completed, written evidence in work books and their own observations to give one grade for an entire KLA. They must look at everything that has been taught during the Semester and the contribution that the child has made to group tasks, individual tasks, projects and class discussions to get an overall achievement level.

8. Student’s strengths

littleboyParents may find a grade unjust for their child if their child may be particularly gifted in an area of that KLA. For example, If a child is a particularly gifted skier and they receive a “C” for PDHPE, their parent may believe that this grade is not a reflection of their child. What the parent does not realise, is that within each KLA there are many strands that need to be taught. In PDHPE there are several strands. All health modules, Dance, Gymnastics, Games and Sports, and Active Lifestyle. This child may be gifted in Skiing but that is only one sport out of many that may or may not be taught within the school. They may achieve at a “normal” level with all other sports and their understanding of the theory component associated to PDHPE, so their average grade for all areas of PDHPE is a “C”. This is reflected in all KLA’s.

9. Report Comments

ParentsreadingReport comments can be particularly difficult for a teacher. They are restricted by how many characters they can write and also how they are allowed to describe different learning attributes of a student. The best advice I have for parents is LISTEN in your parent-teacher interviews. This is a time where teachers can go into more detail about your child and show you examples of your child’s work. They can suggest specific activities you could do at home with your child that targets your child’s area of weakness. Always attend the parent-teacher interviews as they usually offer so much more information than a grade on a paper.

10. Working out a plan

parentteacherPrior to reading a child’s report, a parent generally has a good idea of their child’s academic ability. If you have concerns about your child’s rate of development and reading their report supports your thoughts, speak to the child’s class teacher about it. Just because a child is struggling it does not always mean that they will struggle for the rest of their educational journey. Work out a plan with your child’s teacher about the next steps that you or the school will undertake to identify what your child’s additional learning needs may be. This could include going to a GP, having a speech or hearing assessment or having an observation survey completed by an OT or specialised teacher. Early intervention is the key, so the earlier you identify the extra needs of your child, the more success your child will have. Always book a date for the next meeting with the teacher in order to discuss what has been completed since the previous meeting.

Grades of an A,B,C, D or E enables parents to have a small insight into the academic abilities of their child. Teachers encourage parents to not use grades as the only way to judge their child’s success at school. They need to also think about their child’s social and emotional development as a factor in assessing a child’s “success” at school.

If your child has special needs and you and their teacher believes that “no benefit” will come from your child reading all “E’s” in their report, you can request to have a report with no grades and just comments. The special need’s teacher at your school can offer more information about this idea.

Reports cause a lot of stress for children, parents and teachers. Always remember to use reports as a way of starting communication with your child about their strengths and weaknesses at school. Try not to compare their grades with their peers or with other siblings. Use it to get your child to set some academic goals they want to achieve before the end of next Semester.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Early intervention matters: Gross motor skills

Welcome to my second blog in the series “Early intervention matters”. In this blog I look at the importance of gross motor skills and how to ensure children are meeting the required milestones.

imgresMany children in school have poor gross motor skills. Children today, are not engaging in as much outside play compared to twenty years ago. They are not given the same opportunities that we were given to develop gross motor skills. It is quite scary that many children in Kindergarten are unable to catch a ball, balance on one foot or walk up and down stairs confidently.

Even though children may have underdeveloped gross motor skills due to lack of experience, there are many children that have underdeveloped gross motor skills due to a muscle condition. It is important to have an assessment with a paediatric physiotherapist if you or your child’s teacher are concerned with their gross motor skills.

imgres-2According to “Therapies for Kids” Paediatric Physiotherapists are movement specialists for babies, children and adolescents. It is a clinical area of physiotherapy that aims to improve a child’s movement abilities through the use of methods such as movement training, strengthening, exercise, stretching, adapted equipment, motor learning and play as well as education.

Should you be worried about your child?

Below is a list of gross motor skills that children of a particular age should achieve before starting school. If your child is unable to perform any of these skills by the end of their first year of school you should see a paediatric physiotherapist to check that there are no developmental concerns.

3 year olds

  • able to climb jungle gyms and ladders
  • walks up and down stairs with alternating feet
  • catches an object by using their body
  • able to walk on their tip toes
  • able to pedal on a tricycle
  • stand on one foot
  • jump with two feet
  • walks forward and backwards on a line

4 year olds

  • stands on one foot for at least 5 seconds
  • able to hop on one foot at least 3 times
  • jumps over an object and lands with 2 feet
  • runs around obstacles
  • easily catch, bounce, throw and kick a ball
  • get dressed with little assistance
  • running is more controlled (stop and start on demand)

5 year olds

  • walk up and down stairs while holding something
  • hangs from a bar for 5 seconds
  • skips on alternate feet
  • jump over a skipping rope
  • do somersaults
  • walk on a balance beam
  • catches a small ball with hands only

imgres-1Children need many opportunities to develop their gross motor skills. This can be done through organised, structured play like team sports or unstructured play like climbing playground equipment or a tree. Parents will need to realise that there is always a chance that your child will get hurt while playing, but underdeveloped gross motor skills will certainly increase the chance of your child having a more serious injury in their future.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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Early Intervention Matters: Speech and Language Development

Welcome to my new blog series “Early Intervention Matters”. Through this series I will look at all the different services available for children and how each can make a big impact on a child. Each blog will have a different focus and will give useful information about which children would benefit from the particular intervention.

Early intervention is so important for children. It enables the child to start targeted therapy to work on skills that are underdeveloped. It is essential that parents work closely with day-care teachers and preschool teachers to establish if there are any concerns with their child. If in doubt, get them assessed by a professional. Children under the age of 6 are high priority for all paediatric speech pathologists, physiotherapists and occupational therapists.

images-1In this first blog, I will focus on the importance of addressing speech and language development concerns. A lot of children begin primary school with a communication delay that has been undiagnosed. They may have trouble with their speech with includes their articulation or phonological skills, their fluency or their voice. They may have trouble with their language, which could include understanding others (receptive) or expressing themselves.

If there are any concerns with your child’s speech or language development, teachers will immediately request for an assessment to be conducted by a speech pathologist. There are a variety of assessments that can be done and depending on the findings, children can be “funded” to get extra support in the classroom. Unfortunately, most parents are in denial and do not want their child “labelled” with a diagnosis. Speech and Language issues are extremely undiagnosed because parents do not get their child assessed early and therefore their child will struggle in a formal school setting.

According to the American Speech – Language- Hearing Association the three goals of speech and language early intervention are:

1) Prevention: to hinder the occurrence of a communication disorder or delay by providing Early Intervention (EI) services to at-risk children and their families before an official diagnosis of a communication disorder is made.

2) Remediation: to provide EI services to children and their families who have already been diagnosed with a communication disorder or delay to decrease the long term occurrence or adverse impact that the communication disorder could possibly have on children later in life.

3) Compensation: to provide effective and functional communication strategies or intervention to children and their families with disabilities or impairment that is irreversible to increase the children’s quality of life.

images

Does your child who is aged between 5 to 12 years old need to be seen by a speech pathologist? Look at the list below to see if your child is able to do these specific skills at each age. (This milestone checklist has been compiled by the American-Speech-Language-Hearing Association) If they can not do some of these, most teachers will strongly recommend a speech and language assessment.

 5 – 6 Years old

 Listening

  • Follow 1-2 simple directions in a sequence
  • Listen to and understand age-appropriate stories read aloud
  • Follow a simple conversation

Speaking

  • Be understood by most people
  • Answer simple “yes/no” questions
  • Answer open-ended questions (e.g., “What did you have for lunch today?”)
  • Retell a story or talk about an event
  • Participate appropriately in conversations
  • Show interest in and start conversations

Reading

  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Understand that spoken words are made up of sounds
  • Identify words that rhyme (e.g., cat and hat)
  • Compare and match words based on their sounds
  • Understand that letters represent speech sounds and match sounds to letters
  • Identify upper- and lowercase letters
  • Recognise some words by sight
  • “Read” a few picture books from memory
  • Imitate reading by talking about pictures in a book

Writing

  • Print own first and last name
  • Draw a picture that tells a story and label and write about the picture
  • Write upper- and lowercase letters (may not be clearly written)
  • Beginning to write simple sentences

6 – 7 Years old

Listening

  • Remember information
  • Respond to instructions
  • Follow 2-3 step directions in a sequence

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Tell and retell stories and events in a logical order
  • Express ideas with a variety of complete sentences
  • Use most parts of speech (grammar) correctly
  • Ask and respond to “wh” questions (who, what, where, when, why)
  • Stay on topic and take turns in conversation
  • Give directions
  • Start conversations

Reading

  • Create rhyming words
  • Identify all sounds in short words
  • Blend separate sounds to form words
  • Match spoken words with print
  • Know how a book works (e.g., read from left to right and top to bottom in English)
  • Identify letters, words, and sentences
  • Sound out words when reading
  • Have a sight vocabulary of 100 common words
  • Read grade-level material fluently
  • Understand what is read

Writing

  • Express ideas through writing
  • Print clearly
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Begin each sentence with capital letters and use ending punctuation
  • Write a variety of stories, journal entries, or letters/notes

7 – 8 Years old

Listening

  • Follow 3-4 oral directions in a sequence
  • Understand direction words (e.g., location, space, and time words)
  • Correctly answer questions about a grade-level story

Speaking

  • Be easily understood
  • Answer more complex “yes/no” questions
  • Ask and answer “wh” questions (e.g., who, what, where, when, why)
  • Use increasingly complex sentence structures
  • Clarify and explain words and ideas
  • Give directions with 3-4 steps
  • Use oral language to inform, to persuade, and to entertain
  • Stay on topic, take turns, and use appropriate eye contact during conversation
  • Open and close conversation appropriately

Reading

  • Have fully mastered phonics/sound awareness
  • Associate speech sounds, syllables, words, and phrases with their written forms
  • Recognise many words by sight
  • Use meaning clues when reading (e.g., pictures, titles/headings, information in the story)
  • Reread and self-correct when necessary
  • Locate information to answer questions
  • Explain key elements of a story (e.g., main idea, main characters, plot)
  • Use own experience to predict and justify what will happen in grade-level stories
  • Read, paraphrase/retell a story in a sequence
  • Read grade-level stories, poetry, or dramatic text silently and aloud with fluency
  • Read spontaneously
  • Identify and use spelling patterns in words when reading

Writing

  • Write legibly
  • Use a variety of sentence types in writing essays, poetry, or short stories (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Use basic punctuation and capitalisation appropriately
  • Organise writing to include beginning, middle, and end
  • Spell frequently used words correctly
  • Progress from inventive spelling (e.g., spelling by sound) to more accurate spelling

8 - 9 Years old

Listening

  • Listen attentively in group situations
  • Understand grade-level material

Speaking

  • Speak clearly with an appropriate voice
  • Ask and respond to questions
  • Participate in conversations and group discussions
  • Use subject-related vocabulary
  • Stay on topic, use appropriate eye contact, and take turns in conversation
  • Summarise a story accurately
  • Explain what has been learned

Reading

  • Demonstrate full mastery of basic phonics
  • Use word analysis skills when reading
  • Use clues from language content and structure to help understand what is read
  • Predict and justify what will happen next in stories and compare and contrast stories
  • Ask and answer questions regarding reading material
  • Use acquired information to learn about new topics
  • Read grade-level books fluently (fiction and nonfiction)
  • Reread and correct errors when necessary

Writing

  • Plan, organise, revise, and edit
  • Include details in writing
  • Write stories, letters, simple explanations, and brief reports
  • Spell simple words correctly, correct most spelling independently, and use a dictionary to correct spelling
  • Write clearly in cursive

9 – 10 Years old

Listening

  • Listen to and understand information presented by others
  • Form opinions based on evidence
  • Listen for specific purposes

Speaking

  • Use words appropriately in conversation
  • Use language effectively for a variety of purposes
  • Understand some figurative language (e.g., “I’m on fire!)
  • Participate in group discussions
  • Give accurate directions to others
  • Summarise and restate ideas
  • Organise information for clarity
  • Use subject area information and vocabulary (e.g., social studies) for learning
  • Make effective oral presentations

Reading

  • Read for specific purposes
  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Use previously learned information to understand new material
  • Follow written directions
  • Take brief notes
  • Link information learned to different subjects
  • Learn meanings of new words through knowledge of word origins, synonyms, and multiple meanings
  • Use reference materials (e.g., dictionary)
  • Explain the author’s purpose and writing style
  • Read and understand a variety of types of literature, including fiction, nonfiction, historical fiction, and poetry
  • Compare and contrast in content areas
  • Make inferences from texts
  • Paraphrase content, including the main idea and details

Writing

  • Write effective stories and explanations, including several paragraphs about the same topic
  • Develop a plan for writing, including a beginning, middle, and end
  • Organise writing to convey a central idea
  • Edit final copies for grammar, punctuation, and spelling

10 – 11 Years old

Listening

  • Listen and draw conclusions in subject area learning activities

Speaking

  • Make planned oral presentations appropriate to the audience
  • Maintain eye contact and use gestures, facial expressions, and appropriate voice during group presentations
  • Participate in class discussions across subject areas
  • Summarise main points
  • Report about information gathered in group activities

Reading

  • Read grade-level books fluently
  • Learn meanings of unfamiliar words through knowledge of root words, prefixes, and suffixes
  • Prioritise information according to the purpose of reading
  • Read a variety of literary forms
  • Describe development of character and plot
  • Describe characteristics of poetry
  • Analyse author’s language and style
  • Use reference materials to support opinions

Writing

  • Write for a variety of purposes
  • Use vocabulary effectively
  • Vary sentence structure
  • Revise writing for clarity
  • Edit final copies

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One of the limitations of many speech therapy services is the availability and flexibility of appointment times. Many parents find it difficult to juggle work, school and other commitments to make an appointment. We need services that can adapt to the ever changing society that we now live. A few speech pathology services are trying to be more flexible to allow more children to have access to this service.

“Modern Speechie” offers one of these services. It is an innovative and personalised speech pathology service operating in the Inner West of Sydney. It is a mobile service where sessions are conducted within the child’s home, child care or school setting. This enables the speech pathologist to tailor the best service that meets the needs of each child and their family. Sessions are available on the weekend; which is a big bonus for many families. To contact them directly you can go to their website http://www.modernspeechie.com.au/ or visit their Facebook page.

I hope in reading this blog, you realise the importance of early intervention for speech and language development for children. The next blog will focus on the service that paediatric physiotherapy can offer families.

Knowing this information is important for parents so please share the link so everyone can be well informed.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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15 Ways To Teach Resilience To Your Child

In such a fast moving, busy society where we demand information straight away and do not want to wait for anything why is it so important, more than ever before, to teach children to be resilient?

Welcome to my next blog “15 ways to teach your child to be resilient”. In this blog I look at the reasons why resiliency is so important to a child’s development and ways parents and educators can help their children develop this important skill in life.

So many children in schools have an undeveloped sense of resiliency. It is at an epidemic level compared to the past decades. Why are so many children of this generation unable to display inner strength to deal with everyday challenges that arise and have under developed coping skills? Research tells us, that it is due to the lack of opportunities that children are given to practice this skill when they are young.

As parents and educators we want our children to be happy, successful and have a strong sense of personal worth. We want them to aim high and reach their potential. Unfortunately this can be confused with giving our children everything and doing everything we can to protect our children from undesirable feelings of despair and stress.

We need to give our children many opportunities to practice coping skills when they are aged 2 - 12 years old in order to set them up for a solid emotional foundation for the older years. We need to expose them to challenges that allow them to practice these developing skills.

Below is a list of 15 challenges that we can use to help our own children or children in our class develop their own resiliency.

1. Do not aim to accommodate their every need straight away

imgresSometimes in life our needs can not be met straight away. There are times that we need to wait for food to be prepared or wait for transport to take us somewhere. Children need to learn how to wait for things even if they believe they are dying of starvation.




2. Children need to serve others 

imagesSometimes it feels like everyone has a “every man for himself” mentality. Children need to learn that there are many people in this world and the world does not revolve around them. (wise words from my mother) It is very hard when children tend to be the centre of everything in their family. They are the most special gifts for parents, grandparents, aunties and uncles. Encourage children to let others have a turn first or give other people food first before themselves.

3. Waiting without entertainment

imgres-1Think about when you were a child. If you went to a restaurant and had to wait for food after your parents had ordered it, how did you cope without an entertainment device? (ipod, ipad, DS). Or when you were driven by your parents for 20 minutes in the car, how did you survive not watching a movie in that time? We all survived and are well adjusted adults. Some of us anyway :). Children can only learn to wait if they are given opportunity to wait.

4. Do not eliminate all risks

imgresEliminating every possible risk that may pose a danger to your child will do more harm than good. Children need to assess the risk, problem solve and accept responsibility for their actions. If you take all the risks away they will not get the opportunity to practise these skills.

5. Children need to give

imagesIt is important that children understand that material possessions are not essential to happiness. This sentiment contradicts what advertisements are trying to convey to our children. Encourage your children to regularly give some of their clothes and toys to the less fortunate.

6. Problem solving skills

imgres-2When children come to you with a problem it is important that you help them work out the solution instead of just telling them what to do. Children need to have many opportunities to go through the problem solving process in order to understand how to solve problems successfully. Pose lots of questions to your child to guide them through this process.

7. Do not rescue your child straight away

imgres-3This is an area that most parents find difficult to do. Let your child get frustrated when they can not do something, so you are able to talk about how they are feeling and what they can do about it. They need to experience these emotions in order to learn how to deal with them.

8. Children need to help younger children

imgres-4Children need to be given many opportunities to help younger children. They could help with doing up shoelaces, reading a picture book to them and helping the younger child solve their own problems. This will help children develop their leadership skills and realise that all people are different and require different things.

9. Do not provide all the answers

imgres-5We need children to be able to discover answers for themselves. Children need to learn how they can answer their own questions through research and collaboration with others. Sometimes parents need to say to their child “I don’t know. Maybe you could find out and come and tell me what you found” to encourage their child to work it out for themselves.

10. No interruptions when adults are speaking

imgres-6Children need to learn when it is okay to talk and when they need to wait before talking. So many children are allowed to interrupt conversations that they learn quickly, if they are loud, they will get the desired attention straight away. You can work out a simple way between you and your child, so you know that they need to ask you something while you are talking. When you have finished the sentence, you then can turn to them and encourage them to say “Excuse me” before asking you something.

11. Do not give in

imgresIf you have set an expectation ensure that you follow through with what you have said. Children need to learn that there are rules and consequences if you do not abide by them. Eg If you said that your child must turn off the television after the show that they are watching has ended, then make sure this happens.

12. Identifying emotions

imgres-2Children need to learn to identify the emotions they are feeling. Read lots of books that deal with a variety of emotions and discuss how the characters handle these emotions.

13. Children need perspective

imagesChildren need to realise how fortunate they are compared to others. Give older children the opportunity to volunteer at a charitable organisation to gain a perspective about their own reality.

14. Allow your child to fail

imgres-3Children need to experience failure to learn valuable skills. Children who are always successful have not developed their coping skills when a stressful situation arises. One simple way is to beat them at a game that they really want to win. Help them work through their feelings and encourage your child to have some positive self talk sentences to get them through their disappointment. eg It is only a game.

15. Model resiliency

imgres-4Actions speak louder than words. Model the behaviour that you want your children to display in everyday situations. Have lots of conversations with your child about your own emotions and how you cope with stressful situations.

Children who are resilient become very adaptable adults. They have a strong sense of worth and are able to learn from mistakes and look forward to the future.

I hope these 15 ideas will help guide you in assisting your children in becoming resilient. Please share this blog if you believe it offers some interesting food for thought.

Until next time …Resiliencecollage

Kelly Pisani

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10 Facts About Primary School Homework That All Parents Should Know.

Welcome to my next blog in my new series “Current issues a primary school teacher faces”. In this blog I focus on homework from the perspective of a teacher and convey 10 of my concerns with homework which many parents may not be aware of.

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Homework tasks are varied a lot between schools. Some schools have policies regarding how much homework is given while others are dependent on the classroom teacher. There may be set tasks for the week or fortnight for all classes in the grade or each class might operate quite separately. Whatever the set up, most teachers share the same concerns regarding it. Below is a list of 10 concerns that I have as a teacher that I would like to share with you all.

1. Homework is given to satisfy parents

Most parents still believe that the education system is the same as what it was when they went to school. They are happy with what they learnt at school and hope that their child gets the same type of education that they did. With anything, as time goes on, things change as we begin to know more about that subject. We know so much more about the optimum learning environments and how children learn compared to ten years ago. I do not believe that traditional homework fits into our new understanding about children’s learning. Some parents however, still want homework as they believe it is an important aspect of education.

2. Marking homework takes precious time away from the learning.

If homework is set, the expectation is that it should be marked. If children have spent time working on something that the teacher has given, it is only right that the teacher sights it. When does the teacher do this? There are two ways that this usually is done. Either as a whole class or after school has finished. I see a problem with both, to be honest. If it is marked during class time, it cuts into the precious learning time of the students. If it is done after school, it cuts into precious planning time of the teacher. Teachers need this valuable time to ensure that the next learning experiences in their classrooms are meaningful and targeted to their students’ needs.

3. Homework can not be targeted to each child

Teachers can not be expected to set homework tasks that are specific to each child. The learning experiences that are specific to each child are done in the classroom under the instruction of the teacher. Many homework tasks are quite pointless to some children as they find the tasks too easy or too difficult. What is the point of homework in the model of “one size suits all”?

4. Parents requesting more homework

Children in today’s primary school work harder than ever before. Every minute needs to be accounted for. I find it hard to fathom that parents request more homework when their child is already working a 6 hour day, completing many after school activities and completing set homework tasks. When do the children have time to play outside in an unstructured format or help with the family chores?

5. Homework can turn into busy work

Homework tasks tend to be revision of learnt concepts. Revision is important if it has a purpose. EG Need to know multiplication facts to answer a mathematics problem. If children are churning through pages and pages of information for no real meaningful purpose they will forget the information as quick as they have learnt it.

5. The relationship with the learning inside the classroom

Many parents believe that homework gives an insight into what is happening in the classroom. This may be true in some cases but most tasks are set due to them being easy to mark, the child can complete it independently and the tasks can be completed within 30 minutes. I believe parents can support the learning that is happening in the classroom through better, more meaningful ways. Borrow a novel that you can read with your child, that has content related to what they are learning about or take them on your own excursion on the weekend to a place that will support the topic they are learning about. Most teachers give out a term overview so you will know ahead of time what they will be focusing on.

6. Homework for the whole family

I have heard of many parents expressing their hatred when it comes to homework. The main reason is because it causes so much stress in their family due to the child not wanting to do it or the child getting frustrated with a parent because they cant understand what to do or the lack of time to complete homework. Is this really the atmosphere we want in our homes at night after not seeing each other all day? What benefit is homework really bringing to the families of our students?

 7. What is important for homework

Children need to be encouraged to read and have a love of learning. If your child is particularly interested in a topic, they will develop more skills by conducting their own research into it then completing set tasks that are not linked with anything else. If your child is having difficulty with a concept, consider how to make the learning experience meaningful and your child will develop quickly. Your child needs to have a variety of experiences. This is what should be important.

8. Question the amount of homework

As a teacher I would LOVE parents to come and negotiate the amount of homework given to their child. Schools generally have a basic format per grade that satisfies parents and teachers. Discussing the amount of homework in Primary school gives you more control about how your child will be set up for the year. I believe reading every night and working on a personal project should be enough for all 5 - 12 year olds.

9. Preparing for Highschool

Many parents want their child to have a lot of homework in the upper grades in order to prepare them for high school. We need to think about what is the purpose of education. Is it to always be preparing for the next stage of education or developing children’s concepts in the present? We need to give children plenty of opportunities to develop their own skills and understanding of the world and I do not believe that a large amount of homework supports this notion.

10. Let the teachers do the teaching

Time and time again I hear parents complaining about not knowing how to teach a particular concept to their child that has come up in their homework, as the method that they have been taught at school is no longer focused on in the 21st century classroom. Although homework should be revision, many children still need parents to help answer tasks. As a teacher, I would prefer to set reading tasks and a special project that the child is interested in for homework and leave the teaching to me in the classroom.

Many teachers view homework differently. I believe it is time that parents take a stand against ridiculously large amounts of homework that does not benefit their child. As a teacher and parent I worry about the busyness of our lives and I want children to be able to be children. They have their whole lives to be adults so why are we pushing so much onto them at a young age. Let us focus on giving our children meaningful learning experiences and not piles and piles of busy work.

I would love everyone to share my blog to encourage parents and teachers to ensure that our children have time to be children.

Please leave your comments as I would love to hear your thoughts on homework in primary school.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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How To Read With Your Older Child

Welcome to the first blog in my next series focusing on the older child in Primary school. There is so much information for parents and educators on how to help children in the younger grades achieve their potential but it seems to taper off when a child reaches 9 or 10 years old. In this series, I aim to give lots of practical advice and tips to help parents of children aged 9 - 12 years old to be able to support the learning which is going on in the classroom, at home.

This first blog “How to read with your older child” will outline 5 ways that parents can support the reading development of their child. All children in the middle to upper grades of Primary school are given mandatory reading each night as part of their homework task. Most parents are at a loss, as to how to support their independent reader to ensure that their child is understanding the information from their more complex texts.

Like with a younger child, the love of reading needs to be the focus. Unfortunately as children get older, support for reading at home gets less and less as parents expect that children sit and read independently without any interaction. Reading is seen as a solitary task and any difficulties the child is having may go undetected. If they find reading difficult, especially comprehending what they are reading, they will begin to dislike this task and it will cause bigger issues in the future.

A great quote I always refer to is that “comprehension, floats on conversation”. This is very true for the older child. They need many opportunities to discuss the harder themes, more difficult vocabulary and more complex sentence structure that becomes present in their harder texts they are given to read.

Below is a list of 5 activities that you could do with your child when they have the homework task of reading for a specific amount of time. They are all engaging and aim to help your child have a better understanding of what they are reading. Maybe you can try these with your child every second night.

1. The child plays the role of predicator

images-1Whether your child is about to read a new text or start a new chapter, it is very important for them to be able to predict what could happen. This skill will give you an indication of whether they understand how texts work, can use information of previous texts or chapters to guide their thoughts and to see if they are understanding the plot or themes occurring in the text.

Parent tips

  • Get your child to tell you verbally what has happened (the events) in a previous chapter and what they predict could happen next.
  • Get your child to tell you what a character has been like in previous chapters and what they predict they could be like in the next one.
  • Get your child to give you examples to back up their prediction. Eg I predict the main character will get detention for not handing in homework because in the previous chapter the teacher said that if he forgets his homework again there will be consequences.
  • After the child has read a chapter, get them to come back and let you know if their prediction was right.

2. The child plays the role of clarifier

imgres-1As the child gets older they will be exposed to more challenging texts which will have a higher level of vocabulary. It is essential that children learn the skills to be able to work out what a word means by the context that it is in. A dictionary can also play a role, but we want the child to problem solve first and use it to check what they think.

Parent tips

  • Give your child a sticky note and get them to write down three words or phrases that they find difficult in the text while reading. After reading for the specified time, get your child to tell you the words/phrases. Encourage them to read the paragraph aloud to you that contains the difficult word or phrase and get them to have a go at explaining what it could be.
  • Get your child to try and put any difficult words in their own sentences to see if they understand what it means.
  • Have your child think of synonyms (words that mean the same) that the author could have used instead. Have a discussion with them as to why the author may have chosen that word. Eg despised instead of not liked.
  • Discuss any issues or difficult topics that may have come up during the chapter. It could be the emotions associated with a character dealing with a situation eg bullying, death, sickness, loneliness. Get your child to see the situation from a variety of character perspectives. A parent could ask them, why do you think the character acted like that?

3. The child plays the role of Questioner

Unknown-2Being able to ask a “good” question will give you an understanding of the comprehension skills of your child. A child needs to be able to ask questions that require a deeper understanding to answer them. Asking the right questions in life will indicate that the child knows his/her weakness and can get clarification to keep developing their understanding. Starting questions with “how” and “why” will encourage this deeper understanding.

Parent tips

  • Get your child to read a chapter aloud to you. After that, get them to read it again independently. They can then form 2 or 3 questions about the plot, issues or characters that start with how or why. Have a discussion about the chapter using the questions as a focus.
  • Encourage your child to research about a particular issue or topic that may come up in the text, relating to a question they have. Eg finding out more information about conditions in the depression that might impact of what people did to survive. This research could come about from a question like “Why did the main character steal a loaf of bread, when he knew he could go to gaol?
  • Encourage your child to ask two questions about why an author has used a particular format or character to convey a message. Eg Why does the author use diary entries in the book? Have a discussion about how authors have their own perspective and that impacts on how the text is written.
  • You can also answer their questions by referring to the text to show your child how you need to use what is written and your understanding about the world to form your answer.

4. The child plays the role of Summariser

imgresA child needs to be about to summarise the main points or events that occur in their text. They need to understand what is important and how it contributes to the purpose of the text.

 

Parent tips

  • Get your child to retell what they just read. Ensure that they give you lots of information as you have not read it.
  • Get your child to write a summary of the text that they have read that is less than 60 words. (a, is, I count as words). This will help them to become more succinct.
  • Get your child to explain the changes in a particular character during that chapter. Ensure they tell you how and why they have changed. Ask them how they are like that character and how they are unlike that character.
  • Get your child to tell you the purpose of that chapter or text. Why does the author include it or write about it. Your child needs to give evidence from the text justifying why they think that.

5. The child plays the role of Applier

imagesA child needs to be able to understand what they have read and use this knowledge to apply it to another aspect of their lives. This is a very difficult concept as it requires two steps for children to undertake.

Parent tips

  • After your child has read the chapter or entire text get them to write down 2 new facts they have learnt that they did not know before. Get them to share their discoveries with you.
  • Get your child to suggest ways that they can use their new understanding in their own lives. (eg Cyber bullying is a really big problem now - The child says to protect themselves from it they will not go on the internet after 8pm to reduce the risk)
  • Have a discussion with your child about issues that have come up in the text and how to solve problems if they do arise.

All Primary school children need to be engaged in three different reading experiences. The three experiences are modelled, guided and independent. When a child gets older (9-12 years old), they tend to be only involved in independent reading at home. We need to ensure as parents and educators, to give as many modelled and guided reading opportunities as possible to lay a really strong foundation of reading skills. Older children still need to hear adults read, as they will hear the fluency and reading strategies needed for more challenging texts. Read a variety of texts aloud to your child as much as possible. Continue to get your older child to read to you now and again and praise them for their developing comprehension skills.

I hope this blog has given you some practical ideas on how to continue to guide your child’s reading skills when they are older. Please continue to share, comment and spread the word about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT. I really appreciate all your support and feedback.

Until next time …readwitholderchild

Kelly Pisani

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10 science experiments every child should experience

science experimentsWelcome to my next blog in the holiday series. In this post I focus on the value of children conducting science experiments at home and in the classroom.

Science is a key learning area that is not taught well in Australian primary schools compared to other countries. Maybe this is the result of many teachers not having a deep understanding about scientific concepts or that parents place a higher emphasis on numeracy and literacy concepts. Regardless of the reason, it is our role as educators and parents to ensure that children are having the opportunity to conduct a variety of science experiments which will help them form a strong understanding about the world around them.

I have put together a list of 10 inexpensive science experiments that can be conducted at home by children from the ages of 3 - 12 years old. Try one or all of them with your child and see your child develop their knowledge about a specific scientific concept.

1. Water movement experiment

Water movement

Materials needed: Cabbage leaves, containers, water, food dye

Concept taught: Osmosis (diffusion of water through cells) Plants rely on osmosis to move water from the roots to the tallest part of the plant.

 

1. Pour an equal amount of water into a few containers

2. Put a few drops of different coloured food dye in each container

3. Put a large cabbage leaf in each container

4. Observe cabbage leaves over a 2 week period

2. Rock Candy experiment

rock candyMaterials needed: 2-3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of water, jars, candy flavouring, food colouring, skewers, large saucepan, pegs

Concepts taught: Learning about solutes and solvents. The solute (sugar) is mixed with a solvent (water) to make a super saturated solution. After taking the solution off the heat, the sugar will begin to crystallise.

1. Dissolve a cup of sugar in a cup of water over heat in a saucepan.

2. Slowly add more and more sugar until no more will dissolve. (the water will look cloudy)

3. Take the saucepan off the heat and add the candy flavouring if desired and allow solution to cool.

4. Cut the skewers to the right length, soak the end in water and roll the end of the skewer in sugar. Allow the sticks to dry completely.

5. Pour sugar solution equally into jars. You can add a few drops of different food colouring dyes to each jar.

6. Put a dried sugar coated skewer in each jar and secure with a peg. Make sure that the skewer is not touching any part of the jar.

7. Observe skewers over 2 weeks. (The children can eat the rock candy when the experiment is over)

3. Plant maze experiment

PlantgrowingMaterials needed: shoe box, extra cardboard, scissors, broad bean plant

Concept taught: Plants need light to grow. Plants grow towards the light.

 

 

1. Cut a small hole at one end of the shoe box. Ensure that all other holes are taped up so only the hole you made will let light in.

2. Cut two pieces of cardboard and stick one of the left (a third of the way up and one on the right. (two thirds of the way up)

3. Stand the shoe box up ensuring the hole is up the top. Put the broad bean plant down the bottom sidewards. (ensure the broad bean plant is well watered)

4. Put the shoe box lid back on and secure with tape. Put shoe box in a sunny position near a window.

5. Open the shoe box in 4 to 5 days and observe the results.

4. Elephant toothpaste experiment

FoamMaterials needed: 1/2 a cup of 6% hydrogen peroxide, empty soft drink bottle, tray, food colouring, dishwashing liquid, warm water, yeast

 

Concept taught: Chemical reactions using a catalyst. The hydrogen peroxide breaks down into oxygen and water. The large volume of oxygen quickly explodes out of the bottle.

1. Put an empty soft drink bottle in the middle of a tray.

2. Mix the hydrogen peroxide, 3 drops of food colouring and a squirt of dishwashing liquid in the soft drink bottle.

3. In a separate container, mix 1 tsp of  yeast and 2 tbsp of warm water.

4. Pour the yeast mixture into the soft drink bottle and watch the chemical reaction.

5. Dissolving egg shells experiment

imagesMaterials needed: 4 clear cups, 4 eggs, vinegar,water

Concept taught: Acid base reactions. The vinegar is an acid and dissolves the eggshell which is made up of calcium carbonate (a base). When the acid and base react carbon dioxide is formed (seen as bubbles in the experiment)

  1. Put 1 egg in each clear cup.
  2. Add vinegar to two of the cups and water to the other two cups. (ensure each egg is submerged by the liquid in their cup)
  3. Observe the results over 7 days and compare the eggs that were covered in vinegar to the eggs covered in water.

6. Walking on eggs experiment

walkoneggsMaterials needed: many large trays of eggs, plastic sheet

Concept taught: Shapes of objects effect how pressure is distributed.

1. Put down a plastic sheet and lay a few trays of eggs together on it

2. Walk over the trays of eggs ensuring your feet are flat when walking

3. Walk over the eggs on heels or toes to see if it makes any difference

7. Lava lamp experiment

LavalampMaterials needed: One soft drink bottle, water, vegetable oil, food colouring, Alka-Seltzer tablet broken up

Concept taught: Oil and water do not mix. Oil is less dense and will stay above the water. The food colouring will drop through the oil and mix with the water. The tablet (citric acid and baking soda) releases carbon dioxide gas and the bubbles rise to the top, taking coloured water with it. When the gas is released at the top the coloured water will drop down again.

1. Fill the soft drink bottle a third of the way with water.

2. Fill the rest of the bottle with vegetable oil.

3. Add a couple of drops of food colouring into the soft drink bottle.

4. Add the broken Alka-Seltzer tablet into the soft drink bottle.

5. Observe results. When the experiment has finished, you can add another tablet to watch it again.

8. Make a thermometer

thermometerMaterials needed: 500ml jar, straw, clay, water, rubbing alcohol, food colouring, marker

Concept taught: Convection (the process of liquid expanding and contracting as a result of temperature) When a liquid is heated, it becomes less dense and expands. It will rise up on the thermometer (the straw). When the liquid is cooled, it contracts, becomes dense and goes down on the thermometer (the straw).

1. Fill up the empty jar with equal amounts of water and rubbing alcohol until it is ¼ of the way up the jar.

2. Put a few drops of food colouring in the liquid to make it easier to see.

3. Put the cap back on the jar and secure it with tape.

4. Mix up the liquid

5. Put a hole in the centre of the cap so a clear straw can fit through. (try to make the hole a similar size to the straw)

6. Make sure the straw is in the liquid but does not touch the bottom of the jar.

7. Use clay around the straw to ensure the jar is air tight and to hold the straw in position.

8. Draw a line on the jar with a marker to indicate room temperature.

9. Put the thermometer in different places to see what happens (eg direct sunlight, fridge)

9. Liquid explosion experiment

dietcokeMaterials needed: One bottle of diet coke, roll of mentos

Concept taught: The effect of carbon dioxide. Each mentos candy has lots of little pits over it, which means they have lots of great places for carbon dioxide bubbles to form. After all of the gas is released, the liquid is pushed out of the bottle at a great speed to form a big soft drink blast.

1. Stand the bottle of diet coke upright with the lid off in the middle of a large area.

2. Ensure everyone is standing clear

3. Unwrap the mentos roll and put all of them into the diet coke at the same time. (This can be quite tricky as you need them to go in very quickly)

4. Run into the safety zone and watch the reaction.

10. Bacteria/germs experiment

potato bacteria growthMaterials needed: two potatoes, zip lock bags, a variety of surfaces

Concept taught: The best surfaces for bacteria to grow. Bacteria are microscopic organisms that live everywhere. Certain conditions cause bacteria to be more prevalent than others. The importance of hygiene can be discussed after observing the results.

1. Wash hands with warm soapy water before commencing experiment.

2. Cut two potatoes into slices using a clean knife.

3. Label 8 zip lock bags with the surfaces : hands, mouth, toilet, dirt, floor, sink, bin lid, bench

4. Take one potato slice and rub it all over your hands. Once done put it in the corresponding bag and zip it up.

5. Repeat process with the other 7 surfaces.

6. Put bags in a dark warm spot for 1 - 2 weeks.

7. Observe which potato slice had the most mould as bacteria helps mould grow.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and are enthusiastic to try some of these at home or in your classroom. Science gets children to ask questions and clarify their own understanding of how our world works. For older children, encourage them to try and explain the science behind each experiment.

Next week I will be starting a blog series aimed at educators and parents of children aged 8 - 12 years old. Please continue to share, comment and spread the news about CREATING A LEARNING ENVIRONMENT.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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20 Activities For The School Holidays That Will Keep Children Busy For Hours

Holiday activitiesSchool holidays can be a trying time for many parents. Not only does it mean having the children home for two or more weeks, eating them out of house and home but it usually involves listening to what seems like the endless whinging from their children claiming they are bored.

Unfortunately our society makes us believe that we need to spend money in order to entertain our children. We need to take them places, buy them the newest technology and arrange for many play dates for our child with their friends. I am hoping that I can dispel these myths with this blog.

Below is a list of 20 great activities that you could do with your child during the school holidays. You may get them started on one of these projects and then let them continue it. All these activities are engaging, inexpensive and help your child develop some of their skills.

1. Grass Head

grassheadFill stockings with soil and put some grass seeds in the soil. Tie a knot in the stocking and stand the ball of soil up the correct way. Your child can decorate their grass heads however they want. Over the coming weeks the grass will start to grow and your child can give their grass heads haircuts. Make sure the grass heads are put in a sunny position and are watered regularly.




2. Time Capsule

timecapsuleChildren can put anything they want in a time capsule that they can open at a later date (usually years later). They may write some things about themselves, about their life or about their environment. They may want to write it down, make a movie and save it on usb or do something completely different. Encourage them to be as creative as possible. They can decorate their time capsule and put it away for safe keeping.

3. Camp

camp indoorSet up some tents in the backyard and have a camping adventure while never leaving your house. You can cook your food on an open fire. (Always have parent supervision for this). You could get creative by making damper. If the weather is not good, why not put the tent up in the lounge room.

 

4. Create a flower garden

Flower gardenLet your child set up their own little garden in the backyard or on your balcony. Get the child to put their own little fence up and plant some flowers that they have chosen. They may want to paint rocks with the names of the types of flowers that they have chosen.

 

5. Magical garden

Magical gardenLet your child use their imagination and create a magical garden for fairies or elves. They can collect things on a walk that would suit a magical garden. Buy a couple of little solar lights to add to the magical element. Be as creative as possible.

 

6. Play garden

Play gardenSet up a garden that children can play in and get dirty. Put lots of gardening tools and buckets in the area and let your child loose in there.

 

7. Recycled furniture project

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIf you are feeling a little more adventurous why not try up-cycling an old piece of furniture into something else. Your child can help with sanding, painting and decorating. There are many ideas on the internet and Pinterest.

 

 

 

8. Bird house

birdhouseHelp your child construct a bird house with anything around the house. Get your child to paint it and help hang it up in the backyard or on a balcony. They can add bird seeds and water. They could try and take photos of birds that use their little bird house.

 

9. Make play dough

makeplaydoughChildren love making things so why not try your hand at making play dough. There are so many recipes out there, some that use cooking methods while others require no cooking. Your child could read the recipe and complete all the steps with your supervision. The best part is, after they have made it, they can use the play dough to make other things.

10. Conduct Science experiments

flowerexperiementChildren love investigating how things work so allowing them to conduct experiments will keep them entertained for hours. There are many simple experiments that can be set up at home. My next week’s blog will consist of 20 easy science experiments that can be conducted at home to help develop children’s understanding of our world. Keep your eye out for it, if you are interested in this area.

11. Building with pop sticks

popstickcreationsPop sticks can be purchased from any discount shop. All your child will need for this activity are pop sticks and craft glue. You may give them ideas of what to make or leave it up to them. Ideas could include, towers, bridges, or houses.

 

12. Art Activities

ArtactivityLots of children love creating artworks. Why not complete this simple, yet effective hand art piece. Research other simple artworks that your child could have a go at.

 

 

 

13. Making a boat

BoatMaking boats is a time honoured tradition that many children enjoy on a regular basis. If your child has never experienced this, it is a good one to try. Collect lots of recycling items and get your child to investigate the best designs for boats through trial and error. If you do not live near a body of water, you could just fill up a large container or bath to test the boats. You could also have a competition to see which child can create a boat that sails the furthest or floats for the longest.

14. Making Catapults

catapultThis is an activity that boys tend to be drawn to. Children make simple catapults with the aim of pushing something through the air. They can continually change their design to get an object to go further. There are many designs on the internet that children can use for inspiration.

 

15. Making Pasta

makepastaCooking has always remained a great activity for children to be involved with. Creating pasta from scratch is an engaging activity for children. Pasta rolling machines are inexpensive these days. It is important that children learn how things are made as many of them only have an experience of eating food from packets on the shelves of supermarkets.

16. Using Tools

buildingUsing an old piece of wood, get your child to use tools to attach things on it. They could screw in a screw or hammer in a nail. The options are endless. The image above gives you some ideas of what they can put onto their wood.

17. Large painting

LargepaintingUsing a large piece of calaco, or old bed sheet, draw pictures on it and allow your child to paint it in what ever colour they want. Spread it out in the backyard and each child can be responsible for an area to paint. When it is finished, you could use it as a table cloth or cubby house roof.

18. Beading

beadingYour child can create a lot of things using beads. A great idea is a sun catcher. Attach strings to a branch and put beads on each. After each string has enough beads tie a secure knot. Hang the sun catcher up outside. Alternatively you could make a wind chime or jewellery.

19. Balloon bowl

Balloon bowlBlow up a balloon. Cover the bottom half with craft glue and put confetti or bits of scrap paper all over it. Allow it to dry. When it has all dried, pop the balloon and the bowl will be ready.

20. Paper Mache

papermacheThis messy play is loved by many children. Cover an object in your handmade glue, using flour and water to make the glue (and some salt to prevent mould). Put newspaper strips over the glue and continue the process until the entire object it covered. Allow to dry over night and do a few more layers the next day. Leave it to dry again. Your paper mache is now ready for painting. You could make a piñata or animal or anything else that your child is interested in.

I hope you have enjoyed reading this post and it has given you some inspiration for some activities to do with your child during the school holidays. Your child will be engaged in these activities and will develop so many skills and deepen their knowledge from completing them. These activities will keep your child entertained for hours while not ruining your bank account.

Thank you for continuing to share my blog. I really appreciate it. I would love to read about any great ideas that you have that have been tried and tested in your household for school holidays.

Until next time …

Kelly Pisani

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